LG UltraFine 4K Display review: Two screens for the price of one
The top 5K displays are both gorgeous and wildly expensive. Why not stick with 4K and buy two monitors for the price of one?
LG 24MD4KL UltraFine 4K Display
Next best thing
Although Apple's Pro Display XDR has proven to be popular, some will realize it's not meant for all of us. It's a pro display with a pro price tag. Instead, we're still looking for the perfect monitor for our Mac laptops that will serve our needs without breaking the bank.
Around 2017, Apple announced a partnership with LG to provide a display that, when plugged into a Mac, just worked. And it did, but at $1,300, it was a fairly steep price for a display not made by Apple. In 2019, LG released a new, slightly different UltraFine display that works seamlessly with Mac. It's 24-inches instead of 27-inches and supports 4K instead of 5K. Since Apple's Pro Display is too expensive for us non-pros, is this the best Pro Display alternative you've been waiting for?
LG 24MD4KL UltraFine 4K Display: Price and availability
The LG UltraFine 4K Display arrived on the market in 2019 and has proven a popular accessory for all of the best MacBooks and Macs. It's been out for several years now so getting your hands on one shouldn't be too big of a deal. It's available at several retailers, including Apple, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Newegg, and others. It's priced at a fair $700, although you can often find it on sale.
LG 24MD4KL UltraFine 4K Display: The features
The UltraFine 4K is a 23.7-inch display with 3849 x 2160 resolution. It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports and three USB-C ports for connecting to the best Macs, Mac laptops, and iPad Pro devices. You can, very easily, connect two UltraFine 4K displays to each other using the included Thunderbolt 3 cable and connect that to your MacBook Pro for dual UHD 4K resolution.
The screen is 16.4 inches high by 21.8 inches tall with a diagonal measurement of 23.7 inches. The monitor sits on a sturdy metal stand that has a height raise of 4.5 inches above its base height. You can stretch it as high as 8 inches from the tabletop to the display bottom.
It comes with a Thunderbolt 3 cable and a high-powered USB-C cable so you can charge your device while it's running. The Thunderbolt 3 cable can charge the MacBook Pro at 85 watts, which means it supports charging the 15-inch model, though it will charge a bit slower than other Mac laptops.
It also comes with a VESA cover so you can connect it to your wall mount if you don't want to take up space on your desk.
|Resolution||3840 x 2160 ISP|
|Color Gamut||P3 wide color gamut|
|Thunderbolt 3|| 85W charging|
When daisy chaining two UltraFine 4K displays together with, perhaps the new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air with Retina display using a Thunderbolt 3 connection, you get full 3840 X 2160, 60Hz resolution on both screens. Though macOS Catalina is still in early developer beta, I also successfully connected an iPad mini using Sidecar for a fourth screen.
In terms of versatility, two displays daisy chained together provide a whole lot of additional screen space for a reasonable price. A 4K display above 50 inches will usually run you about $2,000, while two UltraFine 4K displays work beautifully as a second (and third)-screen companion for the Mac at only $1,400 for a set.
LG's UltraFine 4K display is compatible with the following Mac and iPad models:
- 12-inch MacBook
- 13-inch MacBook Air with Retina display
- 13-inch MacBook Pro - Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
- 15-inch MacBook Pro - Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
- 21.5-inch iMac - Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
- 27-inch iMac - Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
- iMac Pro
- Mac mini - Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
- iPad Pro 11-inch
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd Generation)
LG 24MD4KL UltraFine 4K Display: What I like
Coming from the LG UltraWide Curved display that I've been using for a few months now, I didn't think I'd like using two separate monitors to do the same thing. Why have a space between two screens when I could fit them onto one?
Turns out, I was worried about nothing. Daisy-chaining the two UltraFine 4K monitors together works just as smoothly as a single ultrawide. No lag. Items drag across the gap between screens like magic. I didn't miss a beat in terms of productivity. In fact, I found having the two screens side-by-side to be more productive because my brain is able to process the content on two smaller screens better than one giant one.
At first, I didn't like not having any physical controls on the monitor. That's not how I'm used to third-party monitors working. But within a few minutes, I realized that this is the best possible control mechanism for Mac users. All the video and audio adjustments take place in the Mac's settings — volume control, screen brightness, and display positioning. It's more like using an iMac than using a Mac with a third-party monitor.
When you connect the two monitors together and then to your Mac, you're provided with a new set of virtual controls available in the settings section. These allow you to identify which screens are where in real life. This isn't new for LG displays, but if you've never used multiple monitors before, you'll find their positioning settings in System Preferences under Displays.
You can use your Mac desktop or laptop computer as one screen and drag windows and applications to the two LG screens for more space. As of this review, I was able to connect a fourth screen, my iPad mini, to the daisy-chain.
You can also shut your Mac laptop and work in clamshell mode using an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad. This is my preferred way to work. I get the power of a MacBook Pro with the workflow of an iMac.
The LG 24MD4KL supports True Tone and Night Shift on Mac. So when the screen of your MacBook adjusts to the ambient lighting in the room, so do the monitors. When it's night time and you're still working, the connected monitors dim slightly and take on a slight yellow hue.
The screen is beautiful at 4K, and two LG UltraFine 4K displays output a full 4K for each when daisy-chained together. You don't just get full 4K support for one but not the other.
The LG 24MD4KL comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports so you can connect to your Mac and connect to another display or connect to an external hard drive for up to 40Gbps connection speeds. There are also three USB-C ports for connecting peripherals, external drives, and the 2018 iPad Pro. I love having extra USB-C ports for connecting all the additional things you need, though it doesn't have any legacy ports.
This model UltraFine 4K monitor from LG also supports 85W charging, which is higher than LG's previous 4K model, which only supports 60W charging. This means you can charge even the 15-inch MacBook Pro, though the larger model will charge a bit slower than any other Mac laptop.
The LG display stand has height and tilt support for a variety of positioning options, though it doesn't support a vertical view. You can easily adjust the height by simply pulling up on the monitor thanks to the hydraulic style adjustment system. If you don't want to use a stand, the monitor comes with a VESA plate you can switch out to use with your favorite VESA wall mount.
The entire monitor is ready to go right out of the box. You don't even need to screw the stand together or mount it to the monitor. It's incredibly easy to set it up and start using. Plug it into the wall, plug your Mac into the display, and bam! you're ready to go. No software, no output adjustments.
Speaking of power plug, LG did us a big favor by housing the necessary power technology inside the monitor chasis instead of in a cumbersome power brick, which is a much more elegant solution.
LG 24MD4KL UltraFine 4K Display: What I don't like
The most obvious downside for Mac fans is the design of the UltraFine 4K Display. LG has had a few years and plenty of feedback from Apple fans to know that boxy and black is not the "in" look right now. The corners are sharp. The backside is flat. The stand is straight and square. This is a disappointment for me knowing that LG can design an attractive looking display. The Edge Arch used on LG's UltraWide Curved display is a perfect example. Now, that's a good looking stand.
I'm also not a fan of those thick bezels. It's the same thickness all around, so there isn't even any style to the look. There's no reason this couldn't have slimmer, or even, no bezels. It's not like there's a camera hiding under the screen or anything.
That's right. There isn't an on-board camera or microphone. If you want those, you'll have to connect external ones using the USB-C ports (or hook up a dongle with USB-A ports, which is what I did).
I understand that we're moving toward an all-USB-C future where one port can rule them all, but that's not the reality right now, which means we need USB-A, at the very least, for most connected gadgets. The fact that the LG 24MD4KL has five ports, but none of them are USB-A makes me sad.
Because there are no on-board buttons, there is no on/off switch for the monitor. It should, in theory, go to sleep when not connected to a computer or when your Mac is asleep. One of the two monitors I tested, however, never went to sleep. Instead, when the Mac went to sleep, the screen went white. I'd have to unplug the monitor from the wall to turn it off, which created its own set of issues with display positioning when I plugged it back in. Presumably, this is a glitch in the unit I was testing, but it's an issue that reminds me of just how much I miss Apple having it's own in-house display that just works (besides the XDR Pro Display ... one for the rest of us).
LG 24MD4KL UltraFine 4K Display: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You need 4K clarity and P3 wide color gamut
- You want to daisy-chain multiple monitors
- You like Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C
- You need 85W charging
- You want to spend less than $1,000 on a monitor
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You were hoping for an Apple aesthetic
- You need an on-board camera and microphone
- You need 5K resolution (or higher)
- You want legacy ports
The price tag on the LG 24MD4KL is very appealing. For less than $1,000 you can have one of the best monitors that works seamlessly with your Mac. Though it doesn't have the Apple design aesthetic, the good stuff is all on the inside. Just like an Apple brand monitor, all of the monitor's controls are available in the settings section of your Mac.
If $5,000 for Apple's XDR Pro Display is too painful for your pocketbook and you're looking for a solid 4K monitor to increase your productivity or give your Mac laptop a larger second screen, the 24-inch UltraFine 4K Display from LG fits right into the pocket of reasonably priced and great quality if you don't mind the boxy black look. At only $700, you can get two of them for almost the price of one LG UltraFine 5K Display.
The right option
It doesn't have the Apple aesthetic, but it's got a beautiful, bright display and works seamlessly with your Mac laptop.
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Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books. If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).